You just realized your cell phone has been stolen. Not only are you out the cost of the phone, but more than likely, the thief is placing hundreds of dollars of charges on your phone bill right now.
As people increasingly rely on cell phones, this type of loss is becoming more common. In fact, a recent Better Business Bureau report indicated that an estimated 600,000 cell phones will either be lost or stolen this year. Unfortunately, a homeowner’s policy probably won’t be of much help in protecting you in this unfortunate event.
The most popular homeowner’s policy, the HO-3, provides the broadest coverage. It insures you for direct physical loss to all personal property described in Coverage C, as long as the loss was caused by a covered peril and not specifically excluded. The theft of the phone is considered a direct physical loss of property, but not the thief’s subsequent use of the phone. Unlike charges made on a stolen credit card, which have limited homeowner’s insurance coverage via a separate “Additional Coverage” grant, there is no such grant for unauthorized cell phone charges.
Here’s how to protect yourself from cell phone theft and fraudulent charges:
Keep as close watch on your cell phone as you would your wallet or purse. Be mindful of where your phone is at all times and be careful about who you lend it to.
Password-protect your phone. Read the user guide that came with your phone to find out how to “lock” your phone or enable the “password” feature to prevent a thief from making unauthorized calls.
Call your cell phone provider as soon as you realize your phone is missing. Be sure to keep detailed records, including the date and time you called your carrier, the name and ID number of the representative to whom you spoke, and what instructions you were given.
File a police report. This is an official record of the theft and your carrier may require you to provide a police report number when you report your missing phone.
Ask your carrier to open an investigation. If your phone company isn’t working to resolve the situation, request an investigation. This should stop collections agencies from taking action, as well as delay the reporting of non-payment of charges to credit bureaus.
Contact the Federal Communication Commission. The agency will forward your complaint to your service provider and mandate that they respond within 30 days. You can log on to http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/complaints.html to file a report.
Contact your state attorney general’s office. They handle complaints about cell phone fraud, in addition to disputes about contracts. Find your state attorney general by logging on to http://www.naag.org/ag/full_ag_table.php.
Contact your state’s public utility commission. You can find your state’s commission by logging on to the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners web site at http://www.naruc.org/displaycommon.cfm?an=15.
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